Being ambitious and wanting to be the best version of yourself is important, but there is a point when it can become a source of internal agitation. The phrase good enough mother was coined by Dr. Donald Winnicott in 1953. Winnicott specialised in relationships between parents and children. He observed thousands of babies and their parents and noted how many parents felt like failures.
His insight was that the parent’s agony stemmed from having excessive hope. They wanted their children to achieve and their despair originated in a drive for perfectionism. He coined the phrase the good enough mother, arguing that no child needed a perfect parent who delivered everything that societal pressure told them to. A child, Winnicott insisted, needed an OK parent. One who was well-intentioned and reasonable. This was not to encourage a passive approach to parenting, but to accept that life is a series of mostly mundane, repetitive events. The phrase steered parents away from striving towards dangerous ideals and putting needless pressure on the already pressurised task of parenting.
The concept good enough was coined for parents but can be applied across life.
A 2019 study showed that perfectionism has steadily increased between 1989 and 2016. The findings indicate that more recent generations of young people are in a cycle of demand. They find others put greater demands on them, but they expect more and put higher demands on others too.
To cultivate the attitude of Good Enough we can look at the mindfulness attitude of Non-Striving.
This attitude encourages you to embrace the person you are, show up for yourself, and be aware of your perspective of things.
Are you goal-oriented or process-oriented? Goal-oriented people can miss the journey and put so much emphasis and importance on the outcome that they don’t acknowledge the effort they put in along the way. The weight of expectation far exceeds enjoying the journey.
When you cultivate the attitude of Non-Striving, you learn to accept that you are good enough and find a sense of joy and gratitude for where you are on the journey towards the goal.
Nike’s slogan Just Do It gives a sense of power. There is little urgency in this call-to-action, it is a gentle nudge to at least give sport a try. Nike is not telling you that you have to go out there and win, there is no end-goal in the slogan, the point is to get up and give it your best shot. If you don’t try, you’ll never know, you’ll never experience the journey.
Qualities of Non-Striving
Cultivating an attitude of Non-Striving and an acceptance of a Good Enough effort gives you the qualities of patience, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. It gives you the space to navigate the journey towards a goal and avoid feeling that the effort has to be perfect.
Being hard on yourself won’t get you anywhere faster. And it takes a great deal of bravery and skill to accept that life is a series of mundane repetitious events that eventually reap a reward.
Acceptance is an active process of recognising things as they are, even if they are not as you want them to be. Acceptance grounds you in the present moment. In the present moment, the next-step towards the goal can be easier to find than a solution to a larger problem. When you recognise things as they are, you have the power to instigate change.
To persevere through the mundanity of life is quite heroic, and if this scares you, look back and realise that you’ve been doing it all along. And maybe it was these mundane events that led to a sense of true accomplishment along the way?
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